Sunday 22 August 2021

The Same, But Different

This was going to be a blog post.

This was going to be a recollection of a Saturday spent with Phil and Paul and Rob.  Where we rode a charter train from Skipton to Carlisle with a full English breakfast inside us.  Where we worked our way back to the West Coast Main Line via the Cumbrian Coast Line.  It was going to be a blog post about food and views, about chats and laughs, about dropped toast and circular roofs and closed coffee shops.

Instead it's become an aide-mémoire.  I have a terrible memory for where I've been; I vaguely gesture at the Northern rail map and say, yeah, done it all, take your pick.  It's a load of ticks.  But travelling over these routes today I realised it was so much more.  Each station became a memory; every halt was a trigger.  I watched platforms appear and disappear and tiny moments of my life rose up before me.

This blog is simultaneously a record, and transient; it's incidents of my existence, burned into the internet for as long as Google wants it.  It's days in summer and winter and my past.  As I watched the stations pass by, fragments, pieces, rose up in my brain and pummelled me.  A week in Kirkby Stephen station house.  The green at Bootle.  The steps to the town at Appleby.  There was a minute where I saw Green Road as an upcoming halt and I thought I didn't remember it at all; then I saw it, and I realised it was square windows in the shelter, and a walk behind a school sports field, and a tea room.  It was a mish mash of times in my life that clashed and shouted and laughed.  There was a walk along a beach, round a quarry, through the most depressing village in the world.  There was a closed shop here, and a great pub there, and a bridge, and a footpath.

Every station clicked and shouted to me.  I might not have remembered the name, but I remembered the feelings, the cold of a stormy day, the rain, the sun, the happiness when I saw a platform, the anger when I realised I'd missed my train.  I saw days out, weeks out, travels all across the north.  They mingled with other trips I'd made - no, that was Middlesbrough, no, that was Barmouth, yes, that was Maryport.  My brain became a swirl of happiness.

Because every station being a memory means every station is unique to me.  It's hanging off the cliff at Nethertown or the amazing roof at Hellifield or the rescue instructions at Dent.  La'al Ratty at Ravenglass and the offices at Lazonby.  I watched them burn past and each platform, each sign, was a landmark.  Every time I smiled as I realised why that station was unique to me; why it was a place that belonged only to me.

I should write a post about my day out.  I should write about the travel.  Instead I'm wrapping myself in my memories, in the wonders of places visited.  You shouldn't dwell in the past, but every now and then, it's good to pay it a visit.

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